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Sunday, July 27, 2014

NAVRAT ZTRACENEHO SYNA / RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON (1967)

A sanatorium tale from Evald Schorm, very Czech New Wave, made during the run up to the brief Prague Spring of 1968, until Alexander Dubček’s reforms were crushed by Soviet tanks. Yet, even before that smothering political put-down, there’s no sense of freedom, only modern angst-ridden worries, and the film plays out as one more all-too familiar allegorical mental hospital drama. Here, a young man tries to recover from a suicide attempt, an act presented as a self-indulgence for someone who has so much: wife, child, helpful parents, good job. But each time he gains early release from the facility, something sets him off and it’s back for more treatment from his decidedly nonchalant shrink, plus extra attention from his (nymphomaniacal?) wife. So . . . um . . . er, the message is . . . Czech Society chomping at democracy’s bit, but not quite ready for freedom? Alas, that really does seem to be the idea. And while Schrom has a fine eye for strong compositions (lots of frames within frames within frames) the grainy realism and natural lighting become something of a drag after a while. And, with so much repetitive behavior, you long to shake somebody up just to see what might happen.

DOUBLE-BILL: Everybody seemed to be in mental institutions in the mid-‘60s. You might try Jean Seberg & Warren Beatty in Robert Rossen’s LILITH/’64 though any decent cinema shrink would advise against it.

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